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Surging e-commerce has led DHL Express to invest more than €1bn in its global network over the last 12 months, with today’s opening of its refurbished Brussels facility the latest in a long line of developments.
Both the company and Belgian ministers believe it represents a “huge” opportunity for the country’s SME market.
Minister of Mobility Ben Weyts described the opening of the new facility as a “day of optimism and perspective” for Belgium.
“When you see both the country and Brussels Airport attract businesses of this sort, you hope it can act as a magnet,” said Mr Weyts.
“We want more enterprises to come to Belgium and would really like to see this become an economic cluster of enterprises.”
Transport minister Francois Bellot joined DHL Express chief executive Ken Allen in noting the benefit posed by the hub to the country’s SMEs.
But Mr Bellot also highlighted the importance of environmental protection, describing it as a “significant concern”.
“One thing playing here is environmental protection and we also take this into consideration when assessing these investments and we would like to see further investments in aircraft that reduce both environmental and noise pollution,” he continued.
However, DHL exceeded its 2020 emissions reduction target of 30% in 2016, and is now targeting a 50% reduction by 2025.
Mr Allen said boundaries are shifting as a result of e-commerce, which he described as a “trade revolution”, a result of which is that SMEs can global “instantaneously”.
“It truly is a fantastic opportunity for Belgium as the country has a vast number of SMEs and if you are an SME and set up in Belgium you can be an international company in a few weeks,” he said.
“The growth in these small businesses comes on the back of tourism – people go and get a flavour of these overseas cultures and they want to bring it back home.”
Some €140m has been poured into redeveloping the Central European hub, which can now handle 40,000 parcels per hour.
“Over the last four year, we have increased our [global] market share by 1% annually, and have now seen 30 consecutive quarters of growth in excess of 7%,” said Mr Allen.
“Traditional business is back, with levels in Europe seeing as much as 13% every year, and for businesses to grow there is no better means than express.”
Brussels joins the likes of East Midlands, Leipzig, Madrid, Warsaw, and Vitoria in having received a “massive” boost from DHL’s investment.
Mr Allen claimed the latest investment could bring around 400 new jobs to the region, with 200 coming directly as a result of the hub’s expansion.
Chief executive of Brussels Airport Company Arnaud Feist congratulated Mr Allen and his team for the “great” new hub, noting that it not only boosts employment but the airport’s reputation.
“Our plan at the airport is to refurbish the entire cargo zone with the DHL hub being just a starting point for this,” said Mr Feist.
“We have two further developments we are already working on and we hope to be able to announce what these are in the next month.”